Some jurisdictions across Canada are anticipating smaller or later deliveries of the flu shot than normal — which could affect vaccination programs.
A short delay doesn’t doom you to getting the flu though, health experts say.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, while vaccines may be a bit later than usual, more than 90 per cent of Canada’s total vaccine order will be available to provinces and territories by the end of October, and they’re working on that last ten per cent.
“Although some vaccination programs may need to adjust their timing to accommodate a somewhat later than usual delivery of vaccine, health professionals at all levels of government are working together to minimize any potential impacts,” wrote a spokesperson in an email.
The flu shot really is the best way to protect against the flu, said Jordan Clark, an Ottawa-based pharmacist with Shopper’s Drug Mart.
“It’s safe. It’s effective. It’s simple. It’s accessible,” he said.
Getting the shot also helps others. “It’s not just for yourself that you’re getting it, it’s for all those people around you.”
So if you’re forced to wait to get the flu shot, how should you protect yourself?
First of all, there is still time, so don’t despair, Clark advised.
“It takes about two weeks for your body to produce full immunity from when you get the flu shot to when you’re sort of covered,” he said. “So that’s part of the reason we want to get it early but luckily we don’t actually start to see cases of the flu until into November.”
While you wait, you should take the usual precautions.
“Getting the flu shot is the best way to prevent getting sick but handwashing is a big one,” Clark said.
“Avoiding crowds. Eating healthy, getting plenty of rest and plenty of fluids are all pretty simple things, pretty old fashioned things, but they really do seem to stand the test of time of the most effective things that you can do to stay healthy during the flu season and really all year round as well.”
According to PHAC, you should also cough into your elbow or sleeve rather than your hand, frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch often — like doorknobs and telephones — and avoid touching your face.
And if you do get sick, both Clark and PHAC recommend staying home to avoid spreading your illness to others.
Clark also recommends regularly checking with your pharmacy or local health authorities to see whether the shots have arrived.
“The easiest way is generally just to call your pharmacy,” he said. Most pharmacies also tend to advertise the flu shot with signs on their door or outside once they have it in stock.
People who belong to a group at higher risk of developing severe illness: pregnant women, people older than 65 or under five, and people with chronic health conditions, should consider contacting their health care provider to ensure that they’re on a list to get the flu shot first, Clark said.
“When the flu shot first comes out, we do have a priority. It’s basically the high risk population that is eligible to get the vaccine initially.” Some pharmacies will also keep a list of people who should have priority access to the vaccine, he said.
According to PHAC, each province will decide on its priority groups and vaccine rollout plan individually.